A different kind of holiday season

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4ADecember has always been my favorite time of the year — no matter where I am, and even if memories of Christmases in Manila make me miss home all the more. Christmas in New York is a little less festive because we don’t all do Christmas– depending on one’s faith, it might be a Hanukkah .. or Kwanza..

Last Thursday, I was in the city for a doctor’s appointment and I decided I would go around and visit the usual places which were the festive manifestations of the holiday. This year, the lions adorning the front of the New York Public Library, Patience and Fortitude, have their customary Christmas wreaths, but are now masked.

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I wanted to check out the shops at the winter village in Bryant Park behind the library and found out that only a third of the usual number of stores and food outlets have been given space to allow for social distancing.

This side of the park right behind the library used to have two rows of shops facing each other but now have been left empty.

No booths on this side of Bryant Park this year

The seasonal restaurant is not up this year, and the skating rink facilities are all outdoor so there is no longer any enclosed waiting/changing station. What few shops that set up still bring us the holiday spirit, but it isn’t quite as festive as years past.

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The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is now cordoned off and the nearest you can get is at least 10 feet away through a directional path, where security personnel and denominated circles on the ground let you make your way closer to the tree.

The crowds were visibly thinner and there was a horde of security and police present.

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Even going through the main walkway where the angels with their trumpets blaring lead you towards the front view, allowing you to see the tree with the statue of a Prometheus under it as the skaters glide on the rink are now controlled and directed. Which is good given the current state we are in.

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The usual decorations have sprouted up again but the crowds aren’t there. Although that makes taking pictures a whole lot easier, a visibly thinner audience around all this display of the holidays makes it less festive than we have been used to. But that is life now as we know it.

I have missed you, Manhattan

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI remember the last time I was in Manhattan after our company ordered everyone to work from home. Someone I considered a daughter was visiting from Manila, and although we couldn’t go around, we agreed to meet at the apartment where she was staying to spend time catching up. That was in Mid-March, and I braved the city choosing to ride Uber going in and out. The city that never sleeps was practically quiet, with only a smattering of people here and there. Traffic was light.. most stores were closed.

I finally returned to Manhattan last Friday, and although the vibe is nowhere near what it used to be, it was a better cadence and more people were out and about.
Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.Traffic wasn’t as light as the last time I was here, but it wasn’t as busy as I was used to. Most people going about their business were wearing a face covering. Masks, after all, have been mandated all over.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.

It felt different. It was almost like there was an eerie whisper in a place that was always buzzing with life. I passed my building and wonder how it is over there now — yet I wasn’t curious enough to venture that way. It can wait. We are, after all, still officially working from home, so much so that I have indicated that in my voicemail. We don’t know yet when we will return to the office, but I am not excited by that thought.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.

I feel grateful to be able to work from home, spared from having to deal with the anxiety and stress of commuting. Or of being in an enclosed space with others — and that was never even a thought before we were all overtaken by the virus. Not that I wish this to be permanent, but I know that I am not quite ready to go back yet.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.Even Times Square which would usually be teeming with people all hours of the day was somber and quiet. The lights were still on like they always have been, but the place seemed to have been sucked of life with the absence of the people of all races and colors walking its streets.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.

It’s so deceiving how the skies are blue and everything looks sunny and bright — and yet there is a pervading sense of gloom in the streets as many stores are shuttered, and there is a pronounced thinning of the usual street crowds. Restaurants are still not allowed to do indoor dining. Some stores have signs on their doors saying that they have decided to close their shop/restaurant indefinitely. And there are the boarded up windows on the storefronts that fell victim to the looting of several weeks ago.

It feels as though the city is in a state of limbo. As if everything is suspended.
Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.Even my beloved Bryant Park wasn’t the same. It felt like a weekend morning when it was actually late in the day and a Friday. There were paths specified in the park and various signs around.

I terribly miss how the city used to be. But I missed it plain and simple that even in the midst of all that is different now, I was grateful to be back even if only for a short while.

The Whole Foods across from the park was closed. There was a sign saying this branch serviced online orders only and it appeared that this was their distribution center. Most fast food stores were open only for take out or delivery. The offerings were limited. My favorite Maison Kayser had signs that they have decided to close their stores temporarily. The hours were severely shortened. Most stores that were usually open even on weekends were now closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Most of the stores screamed “We’re Open” in signs, both handmade and professionally produced, just to distinguish themselves from the other empty stores that were everywhere.

I could actually feel the city moaning in pain. But what could I do. Like the city that never sleeps that now seems to be bedridden and chained down with limited movement, I’m just riding the pandemic out.

I don’t want to hasten a guess as to which stores will be around when this is all over. The prognosis is not good. The business landscape of the rows and rows of stores here in the city will certainly change in big, bold strokes when we return.

It is a sobering reminder that nothing is permanent. Even the greatest city in the world can be cowed into submission. What I know is that no matter how bad things get, this city will overcome. We’ve done it countless times before. In the gloom and doom and the sense of loss of 9/11, or the pain that became manifest in many stores succumbing to bankruptcy in the economic downturn of 2008 — and even now, we have come back.

It may be a slow one, but we are getting back up on our feet again, come what may.

Central Park and My Little Guy

Central Park on Veteran's Day 2014

I had vowed to come back this year to Central Park to document the scenes of fall.  I was here around this time last year, exploring its pathways and hidden gems — also with my little guy — one time Alan had friends in town.  I hate that I don’t get to visit as often, considering that its Midtown “edge” on 59th is actually near my “nest” in Manhattan.  Fifteen years a New Yorker and I have yet to explore beyond the 80s.  (Getting there.)

Central Park on Veteran's Day 2014

It wasn’t quite the scenery I had been lucky to capture in 2009, but it was as breathtaking nevertheless.  The leaves hadn’t quite all fallen, blanketing the grass with the gorgeous colors of fall.  Not yet.  So maybe I will come back next week when that would have happened.

The beautiful thing about autumn is how the colors can change from day to day and the landscape dramatically transforms overnight.  The color palette will be different in a day or two, and this whole scene will become a totally different canvas.

Central Park on Veteran's Day 2014

He loves exploring Central Park.  I used to keep him close by, holding his hand all the time.  These days, I have to keep up or I will get left behind.  Even in Manhattan, he looks around to check who can see when he cozies up to Mommy.  (My friends might see, he would say.)  He walks ahead of me now, sometimes way too far ahead, and I still worry.  (I had always admonished him to be within sight, and not too far ahead lest someone grab him and Mommy might end up a basket case..)
Central Park on Veteran's Day, Autumn 2014

The rock formations fascinate him no end, that’s why I wore my rugged boots to make sure that I could climb with him.  And climb we did!  (Three hours of this around the Park and by the time we reached the American Museum of Natural History by noon, I felt like I had done my workout for the day.)
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I sometimes find myself telling him to stop growing up too fast — as if that would slow the growth and keep him from getting smarter and taller… It’s a mom’s plea to the universe to just keep him a child a little longer — so I can still keep him close and cuddle him like a baby on my lap.  The taller he gets, the farther he can go away — and grow away — and as a mom, I want to keep him the way he is just a little longer.  He’s already up to my nose at 10 years old.  In another year or so, he will be as tall if not taller than me.

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His favorite spot is not any of the fountains or bridges or the numerous playgrounds that dot the expanse of the park.  It’s this rolling stream flowing through a natural jungle gym of rocks called The Gorge from which the Gill flows into the Ramble.

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He takes in everything with an insatiable curiosity — and no matter how many times we go and explore the park, it always has the appeal of a real adventure for him each and every time.
Central Park on Veteran's Day - Fall 2014
These days, it’s not as easy to make him pose for pictures anymore.  Remember when your little one would so readily strike a pose and smile when you whipped out your camera?  Even selfies take a little effort now — although the protests are not quite beyond mommy’s coaxing just yet.  I usually get a good shot or two out of every half dozen which isn’t so bad.  The threat of more pictures without a decent smile in the next one usually does it.  Soon, I will have to blackmail him or use motherly persuasion (translated: threats) to get him to agree to be photographed… (Selfie tip if using an iPhone – use your headset volume switch as a remote for your camera.  It does work!)

Central Park Veteran's Day - Fall 2014Lugging my DSLR-like camera, the blackberry and the iPhone, I still wish I had taken more pictures.  I just want to capture everything about him.. well, there’s always the next time my little guy and I go explore Central Park.

The Rainbow Connection

Did you catch the rainbow over Manhattan today?  Sometimes you have to look hard and be quick before it's gone...Happy Friday! #happyfriday #manhattan #midtownmanhattan #rainbowovermanhattan #rainbow #lookup #friday

Remember that song from the late 70s, “RAINBOW CONNECTION”?  (Sung famously by Kermit the Frog and covered by a ton of artists after..) — it’s the song that comes to mind when I remember the splendor of seeing a rainbow above Manhattan Friday afternoon after a quick shower.  We were expecting a thunderstorm, but Mother Nature gave us a break.

It’s hardly discernible from the picture I took upon seeing it, as I caught it as it was about to “disappear” into the clear sky that was revealed after the grey skies had passed.  Magnificent..

 

 

Looking out my window

This was the way the skyline looked as the rain started to fall at around 6pm last Friday. Menacing clouds threatened Manhattan with some serious rain.. Just the type that would make you think twice about heading out. Not that I was in any particular hurry to go home. I had work to do.

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Last night, I saw this glorious sunset in Manhattan.

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There is so much to see just looking out your window.

I’m staying at a hotel downtown because of a work event, and at least I get the perk of getting a room instead of having to commute at the start of the day and late at night when it ends. Still, it’s all work to me. I worked over the weekend pulling together materials for the event. It was better putting in the extra hours rather than stressing out over everything come Monday. So while there remained quite a lot to be done, I didn’t feel totally overwhelmed come the start of the week.

In the midst of everything we do during our day, we should always take the time to see what’s out there and appreciate it for what it is.

I see storm clouds and I marvel at the power of nature to cast such a pall of gloom (and doom) onto this great city I live in.  You would think that the concrete jungle that Manhattan is would not look any smaller but it does when Mother Nature towers over it with such a foreboding of a real downpour.

Sunsets always make me stop and look, be it from the view from 40 storeys above Midtown or beyond the rooftops of the houses I walk past as I get off the bus and make my way home.  Maybe it’s because I come from a place where we are proud of our glorious sunsets that make our skies glow back home in the Philippines so I grew up looking towards the setting sun.

 Have you looked out your window lately?

A Saturday afternoon walk down Central Park

I was in the city to meet with a friend of my sister who was visiting from Manila last Saturday.  This was our second meeting and I just wanted to catch up with her before she left, hand her a few things for my sister, and just have a different kind of Saturday lunch in the city.  Something for me.

I couldn’t believe how many people were walking up and down on a Saturday, and I guess I really shouldn’t be complaining because that means good business for my city.  We met, had lunch and said our goodbyes.  (And there will be another post about that.)  I deposited her over at Carnegie Hall on 57th and Seventh Avenue and went on my way.  I had already made up my mind that I would make my way to the bus stop through Central Park to snap up some pictures and to do a bit of some exercise for the day.  I wasn’t quite up to walking all the way to my favorite Bethesda Fountain a bit of a ways in from the 59th street edge of the park, but I thought it would be a short detour to head towards the bus stop on Madison and 57th.

Walking down Central Park - April 26, 2014

I missed my little guy.  He always enjoys spending time here because it’s such a wide swathe of open space, and the rock formations are great for make-believe mountains and battles in his imagination.  He likes picking up twigs on the ground and using them as swords to fight off his imaginary foes.

Walking down Central Park - April 26, 2014

I didn’t quite go as far as his favorite rock formation around The Ramble which I am sure we will visit again soon.

Walking down Central Park - April 26, 2014

I always encourage friends visiting from other places to visit even just the outer fringe of Central Park to have a sense of its feel and flavor, but when you’re visiting all those other landmarks that dot the streets of this beautiful city, it ends up as an afterthought.

This is already my second visit this year, and I hope to visit more often in the coming weeks.  There is always so much going on and even just the changing of the colors and elements of nature surrounding the park can be so awe-inspiring.  I usually end up walking the trails of the park in the fall when the foliage is the prettiest and most breath-taking, but I want to see it in its full splendor in the spring.  (Right, Lou?)

You’d think that working on 42nd and Sixth Avenue and being relatively in the same area of Manhattan would make that a breeze — but it isn’t, and it does take some effort to make it happen.  My shots this grey but pleasant Saturday have inspired me to try harder at being in this corner of my city more often this year.

Walking towards the east, I approached the Pond (of Home Alone fame) from the west side of the Gapstow Bridge and caught some nice snapshots of the water reflecting the landscape around it.  I guess it’s because the sky was the way it was, and because I was viewing the water from where I was standing.  The reflection doesn’t come out as perfectly as the shot below from angles closer to the eastern side of the bridge.
Walking down Central Park - April 26, 2014

By the time I got to this side of the park, the clouds had started to gather up above. That, plus the flowers in bloom were beginning to droop down towards the ground instead of standing proud looking up at the sun like usual — a sign that it was about to rain.
Walking down Central Park - April 26, 2014

I exited on to 59th street and Fifth Avenue, heading out via the Plaza Hotel side to make my way to 57th.  Always well worth the detour even on an afternoon I’m trying to get home as fast as I can… What’s your favorite part of Central Park?

 

Snowy, snowy Monday

Snowy Monday
We woke up with a good layer of snow covering most of the ground and a steady snowfall threatening more.  I was the only one who trudged out to brave it, and there was already almost two inches of snow as I made my way to the bus stop.

I’m a fan of freshly fallen snow, but I loathe having to deal with its aftermath.  You feel like you’re walking inside a freezer and you have to be quick to distinguish ice from slush from soft snow.

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More than an hour later, the bus managed to literally crawl to Manhattan.  Snow tends to slow vehicles because it is slippery and gives the vehicles a lot of difficulty when it comes to maneuvering.  It wasn’t as bad in the city but the snow didn’t stop falling.  The trees were already outlined by snow resting and accumulating on its branches when I reached Manhattan just after 9am.

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By noon, the New York Public Library and Bryant Park 41 storeys below me were blanketed with snow — and no, this photo is not in black and white.  Snow and the weather condition made it look like it was.

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The vista across from our building was a gloomy grey.  The continuing snow fall made it so, as if a shroud of gloom descended upon the city.

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The most dramatic yet was the one I took just a short distance from my doorstep as the sky glowed while a slight drizzle of snow fell to the ground.  For all the hazard and difficulties brought about by such heavy snowfall, you can’t help but admire the beauty of all that white, coating the outlines of the trees as you look up into what looks like a luminous night sky.  No bright lights — hence, the brownish tint of the picture.  (Plus, of course, a little help from Instagram’s filters..)

Breathtaking.

Snowy NYC

I’ve been around.. just didn’t quite find a post worth sitting to write about, and have instead been “Instagram” busy.  (Find me there as GothamChick)  I have 15 followers, and I’ve been trying to post daily.

I love the app — but I still can’t do my posts without Flickr. (Where I have a healthy portfolio as Pinay New Yorker)

We got some serious snow during the week and I’ve been told we’re getting a little more tomorrow.  Just a little.  (Well, I sure hope so.) 

Winter Storm January 2014

So we got a lot of snow and it’s still lying around slowly “disappearing” if only because the temperatures are at record lows. We’re lucky to start the day with double digits. 9 degrees! That’s the norm these days.
Winter Storm January 2014You can hardly see the Empire State Building peeking from behind the thick blanket of snow falling on Manhattan.
Winter Storm January 2014

The buses were hardly running and I wanted to make it to the other side to go home, so I walked. I had my umbrella but the snow was blowing from all sides. The good thing is I was properly attired with my snow boots and long coat, so save for a constant spray hitting my face, I was good. (My greatest fear wasn’t slipping but having raccoon eyes by the time I got to my destination! Vanity!!! HAHA!)

The kids, however, were sorely disappointed because the following day wasn’t declared a snow day.  So my little guy trekked to school, but I spared him the walk home and had our friend pick him up instead of having extended day. 

Like most things that come our way here in the big apple, we went through the storm and then moved on.  That is so New York – moving on – and it keeps us going through the best and the worst of times.
Winter Storm January 2014

By the time we got to this part of the city on Fifth Avenue and our bus crawled in front of the New York Public Library, we had been in the bus over an hour.  And we did make it home at just under three.  Three hours on the bus — yes..but we made it home.

Make your own Magnum Bar in Bryant Park

This post has been waiting to be published a while now.  it’s been in my flickr account and has been bumped off the badge on my sidebar by more recent uploads, and with the temperatures dropping, I just want toshare with you yet another sinful treat to indulge in while in my favorite Bryant Park.

Magnum in Bryant Park

This kiosk is on the 40th street side of the park and used to be a seasonal ‘wichcraft ice cream booth in the summer and its hot chocolate kiosk in the winter when the lawn is converted into a skating rink.

Magnum in Bryant Park: Offerings

They sell your regular Magnum Ice Cream bar varieties ($4.00), but what you’d like to try here would be their custom-made ice cream bars.($6.00).  They show this menu on the wall to give you your options.

Magnum in Bryant Park: Milk or Dark Chocolate?
You get to choose between “milk” and “dark chocolate” coating.  I always prefer milk chocolate.
Magnum in Bryant Park: Pick your toppings
Then you get to choose two toppings (I picked honey roasted almonds and chocolate caramel chips.). Your choice will then mixed in a martini-shaker like mini cup and sprinkled over your now chocolate-coated ice cream bar. But that’s not quite the end of it — they actually drizzle MORE chocolate atop your now sinfully delicious bar…!

Magnum in Bryant Park: Milk Chocolate w/ Roasted Almonds and Caramel Chips
Yum! I’d grab one soon as the dropping temperatures might mean a seasonal bow for this to-die-for chocolate treat. This makes it as a lunch meal given how rich a dessert it is. Check them out when they open at noon, seven days a week — until the hot chocolate comes back.